A selection of Paula Deen's favorite recipes, including fried chicken, meatloaf, pork chops, lima beans and mashed potatoes, are served "family style" in unlimited portions at her flagship restaurant The Lady & Sons in Savannah, Georgia. (Phil Potempa / Post-Tribune)
Last fall I was able to slip away with my pandemic “family bubble” for a short getaway to Savannah, Georgia and Hilton Head Island.
Upon arrival, I treated David and Pam, my older brother and sister, to a home cooked lunch at Lady & Sons restaurant to pay a (safe and socially-distanced) visit with the one-and-only Paula Deen.
I last chatted with Deen more than a decade ago when she brought her stage cooking show to The Venue at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond to star in her touring kitchen cooking performance. I’ve met and interviewed Deen a number of times throughout the years, and my sister Pam and my parents always enjoyed eating at Paula’s buffet style restaurant called Paula Deen’s Kitchen at Harrah’s Casino and Hotel in Joliet. Paula herself attended the April 2012 grand opening of the Joliet location, and returned again for the one-year anniversary celebration a year later.
On the subject of celebrations, last month — on Jan. 19 — Paula had two milestones to mark with her beloved sons, Bobby and Jamie. Not only did Paula raise a glass to her 74th birthday, it was also the 25th anniversary for her family’s eatery The Lady & Sons at its downtown Savannah location, which first opened on Jan. 8, 1996.
Previously, Paula, husband Michael and their boys had launched the buffet restaurant as just The Lady in 1991 when it was the lobby restaurant at a local Best Western Hotel on Abercorn Street on Savannah’s Southside. Once Paula joined Food Network as the latest in their stable of kitchen stars for her first television cooking show in 2002, her popularity helped her outgrow her original downtown restaurant location and she moved to her current location at 102 West Congress St. to a larger three-story corner building which had formerly housed the White Hardware Store.
This was my first visit to The Lady & Sons, and Paula and her restaurant’s hospitality is true to the charm of her smile and brand. The global pandemic restrictions of today have Paula and her kitchen team “pausing” her usual buffet menu in favor of “family style” with generous portions of all her favorite recipes served right to guests’ table.
For just under $20 a person, guests dine on unlimited portions of crispy fried chicken, collard greens, lima beans, breaded pork chops, mashed potatoes, meatloaf, fried green tomatoes, okra, Bobby’s favorite pimento cheese spread, pot roast, chicken and dumplings, catfish, candied yams and creamed corn — among hungry appetite highlights. For dessert, her signature sweet offerings are seasonal cobblers, banana pudding and her classic “Paula’s Ooey Gooey Butter Cake.” (For an extra $8 and some lose change, guests can raise of glass of Paula’s libations like Peach Mint Juleps, Sangria, a Georgia mule, Honey and Pear Margaritas, and a spiked Savannah Lemonade.)
Another reason for my drop-in on Paula was to exchange signed copies of our latest cookbooks.
Paula was featured in my third cookbook “Further From the Farm” published in 2010. I’m only on my fourth published cookbook, while Paula just released her 19th in 2019! My books are all based on my newspaper columns and the first three of Paula’s cookbook library each saluted her Lady & Sons restaurant. Her first cookbook “The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook” was published in 1998 and comedienne and author Fannie Flagg, who wrote “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café,” described it as: “The recipes are so good, I almost ate the book.”
Paula’s most recent book is titled “Paula Deen’s Southern Baking: 125 Favorite Recipes from my Savannah Kitchen” (2019, 83 Press, $29.95) and all her restaurant details are found at www.pauladeen.com or (912) 233-2600.
My favorite biscuit “go-to recipe” is always a simple ingredient combination courtesy of our farmwife neighbor Joann Scamerhorn for her Baking Powder Biscuits feature in my original 2004 cookbook. However, Paula’s recipe for her “Classic Buttermilk Biscuits” shared in her new cookbook, from her Grandmother Hiers’ recipe inspiration, is just as treasured and tasty.
Columnist Philip Potempa has published four cookbooks and is the director of marketing at Theatre at the Center. He can be reached at email@example.com or mail your questions: From the Farm, PO Box 68, San Pierre, Ind. 46374.
Paula Deen’s Classic Buttermilk Biscuits
Makes 12 biscuits
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups cold whole buttermilk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
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1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Using a fork, cut in the cold butter until the mixture is crumbly and about the size of peas. Gradually add in buttermilk, stirring just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
4. Turn dough until a lightly floured surface and gently knead 3 or 4 times. Pat dough into 1-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2 –inch round cutter or the mouth of a drinking glass dipped in flour, cut dough. Gently re-pat dough to use all scraps.
5. Place biscuits on prepared pan, sides touching. Gently press down the top of each biscuit and brush with melted butter.
6. Bake biscuits until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and serve warm with butter.